We finished our Spirit House!
Today – finally – after one whole year, we erected the traditional Thai “Spirit House” (ศาลพระภูมิ) for the local Guardian Spirit of the Land (เจ้าที่เจ้าทาง).
The spirit house is handmade (using only manual tools) from wood and bamboo from our garden. We decorated it with carvings of elephants, snakes, a hornbill, a monkey, a cat, fruit, a tree next to a waterfall, and mystical symbols. After contemplating the issue for a long time, we chose the same place that we used to make offerings before (by simply placing them on the ground): right under the largest tree in our garden (older than us), who also marks the border to the adjacent Nature Reserve. The spot gets the first sunlight of the day, has a beautiful view of the jungle, and is located on a small cliff that drops into the valley where the small stream runs that feeds our pond in rainy season. Karn’s father recommended us this day in particular for the initial ritual of erecting the spirit house, and gave us a prayer in Pali to say during the ceremony.
For anyone not familiar with Southeast Asian folk belief and traditional Thai spirituality: the belief in the Guardian Spirit of the Land predates Buddhism and even the rise of nation-states, and has its roots in the land-based spirituality of local animistic hunter-gatherer societies. The Guardian Spirit can be understood as the creative force of Nature, the underlying energy that connects and balances everything, makes everything grow and thrive, is present in all living beings and inanimate entities on the land, and that can take on uncountable manifestations, such as animals and plants – and is of course present in us human animals who reside on the land as well. The spirit is not gendered, since it inheres both female and male qualities and characteristics. It protects the land and those inhabitants who maintain a good connection to the land, and wards off dangers and ill-intentioned people. Most importantly, it is a local, land-based spirit, that is powerful in its own perimeter, but less so or not at all in distant places (where another local Guardian Spirit resides). The spirit’s first and foremost interest is the health of the landbase and the well-being of its myriad inhabitants.
Obviously, our own interests complement and serve the interests of the Guardian Spirit, which is why building the spirit house and having a sacred site for worship is of utmost importance for us.
Today we made an initial offering of various flowers and fruit from our garden, candles, incense from black beeswax, and banana leaf cigarettes. On special occasions (such as festivals, celebrations, birthdays, etc.) as well as whenever we feel like doing so, we will make similar offerings to ensure we retain a strong and stable connection to our land, not only in the physical and emotional, but in the spiritual sense as well.